Women mentally bruised by male partners: How to help Stage 5

Speakoutloud.net Stage 5 Clare Murphy PhDMaintenance is the fifth and final stage in this series of blogs about providing help for women that is appropriate to her stage of coping with being abused and controlled by a male partner. Dienneman and her colleagues (2007) call this stage establishing a new life whether the woman stays together with her partner or whether she starts a new life apart.

What goes on for her at this stage

To get to this stage women may have separated from their partner several times, however now they are better able to separate out the negatives from the positives that exist in the relationship. They have greater clarity about their own self-identity. Therefore women feel justified in insisting that their partner change, or feel justified in leaving him regardless of any negative responses from others.

This is a time when women are better able to ask for support from reliable, safe and trustworthy family and friends to help her with her goal – that is a goal aimed at preventing herself from reverting to whatever she felt, thought or did before.

If she chooses to stay

You can help boost her confidence and conviction to monitor her partner for promised changes. You can help her to set boundaries and rules to protect herself from violations such as dishonesty, disrespect, violation of her privacy and restrictions on her freedom. If she stays she has a right to demand safety and to and receive respect, honesty and mutuality from her partner.

If she chooses to leave

Separation abuse is common when a man’s source of social esteem stems from having power and control over his partner. Therefore you can help your woman friend or family member to not tolerate abuse and control. You can help her to avoid him if that is her wish. You can provide her with whatever she needs (such as accommodation) if he stalks her. You can help to remind her of the reasons why she left and help her find her lost self and build her sense of worth and potential.

Ongoing issues whether she stays or leaves

Courage is required to consistently demand that her partner not abuse and control her. Courage is required to consistently do what it takes to stay safe and build a new life. Women may experience fear. Women I know develop subtle ongoing strategies over years in their relationship to reduce harm to themselves. Now, when they start to make strong and adamant changes that put their own wellbeing first, the man could react badly. She could experience worse abuse and control from him. Some men will plead that she revert to her old ways, plead that she return to him, entice her with gifts and promises. However the woman’s goal is to maintain her conviction to be abuse-free and to develop self-sufficiency, self-determination. You can help her to use the criteria of safety to make every decision. That means she will have to take a strong stance such as calling the police every time the man breaches a protection order, or not giving in to demands and maintain her own sense of integrity. Your support would be welcome at this time.

Becoming aware of warning signs

You can help the woman list all the warning signs that could tempt her to listen to her (ex)partner over and above herself. You can help her see warning signs that might make her ignore her gut feelings. Remember he might try to intimidate her to revert to old ways. She might feel very lonely and want to return to him. She might experience pressure from other friends, family or society in general – to return to the relationship and keep the family intact. Help her to combat these pressures.

Ways you can help her deal with ongoing issues

 

  • Stress: You can encourage her to nurture and nourish herself.
  • Loss of self: You can help her brainstorm long forgotten dreams and take tiny steps towards one of them. Remind her of her strengths.
  • Physical health problems: You can help her improve her diet and exercise. She may need a lot of sleep. Consider helping her with child care, housework or making meals.
  • Emotional problems: You can listen and empathise and allow her to talk.
  • PTSD: You can help her talk through the nightmarish experiences she’s had – but only if she really wants to do that.
  • Grief: You can acknowledge her losses – her dreams of a long happy marriage, her feelings of failure as a wife – don’t make her grief wrong just because her partner abused her.
  • Overwhelm: You can help her take one step at a time – if a woman has been abused for years it may take a minimum of 2 years to even begin to make sense of it.

References:

  • Burman, Sondra. (2003). Battered women: Stages of change and other treatment models that instigate and sustain leaving. Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention, 3, 83-98.
  • Burnett, Lynn Barkley & Adler, Jonathan. (2008). Domestic violence.
  • Dienemann, Jacqueline A., Glass, Nancy, Hanson, Ginger & Lunsford, Kathleen. (2007). The domestic violence survivor assessment (DVSA): A tool for individual counselling with women experiencing intimate partner violence. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 28, 913-925.
  • Kramer, Alice. (2007). Stages of change: Surviving intimate partner violence during and after pregnancy. Journal of Perinatal and Neonatal Nursing, 21, 285-295.
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Meet the Author

Clare Murphy PhD is the founder of SpeakOutLoud. Her website is dedicated to providing in-depth research about coercive control and psychological abuse. Clare mentors, supervises and trains professionals to recognise and work safely with domestic violence. She offers one-on-one counselling and consultation to those who are ready to make sense of coercive control and abuse, and to Grow and Flourish Beyond Trauma.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • John Jun 11, 2015, 1:01 pm

    Hello all, I am deeply saddened by all the abuse that goes on in this world 🙁 I met an absolutely beautiful woman in (you guessed it) Loveland, Colorado 🙂 . We have casually dated and I noticed something was wrong, about every 2 weeks she turns mean and unpredictable. I do know her last husband abused her mentally and physically.

    I actually have grown very fond of her and I want to communicate that I am trustworthy and I will not touch her with an angry hand, EVER. She is all over the map and can’t make up her mind about anything which confuses me. My friends (guys) say I should dump her but I don’t feel that way. I told her anything I do for her, I am not expecting to take advantage of her.

    Please help me:)
    John

  • Rachel2 Aug 4, 2014, 5:44 am

    Hi Abbie and Nicky. I have only just read your posts.

    Abbie – my thoughts are very much with you. I do understand that when you tell the truth and have been subjected to abuse it is unfathomable that the ‘system’ would victimize you still further and give power to the abusive perpetrator. So much of what you said resonated with me and even though it may not feel like this at the moment there are many people who do understand what you have experienced.

    Nicky – you sound like a really loving and supportive mum. As someone who has been abused it sounds to me that you are doing exactly the right thing by your daughter. I hope you will look after yourself – for your own sake of course – but also for your daughter. I believe that one day she will recognise just how loving, consistent and supportive you have been. It may take time. She has been brainwashed and, at least, for me, it took a while before I ‘woke up’ to the reality of my situation. Coming out of denial wasn’t easy and was incredibly difficult and painful. As anyone who has been abused knows, the after effects of abuse can be profound. It does not just end when a victim/survivor leaves the abusive relationship. I really needed all the people who loved me and cared for me to be there. Your daughter is lucky to have you – even if she does not know it yet. However, I believe she will one day. My thoughts are with you.

  • Abbie Jun 6, 2012, 7:40 am

    I left my psychological abuser in 2008. He had me evicted from my home office that I had escaped to in 2009. Although I co-owned three dwellings with him, the judge gave my abuser power and control of all our assets. I was homeless and ended up living in a travel trailer without septic or adequate temperature control in 106 degree weather. The winter of 2009 my water source froze up. I had six pets, a car and my faith. Restraining order was thrown out and replaced with a ‘stay away’ order which prevented me from returning to the properties. I truly believed when I left him that the justice system would save me. WRONG. The divorce was final in 2010, I was awarded a judgement for some of my assets but my abuser refused to pay. After 45K in legal fees to get divorce and judgement, I was broke, my attorney would not help me collect and I was terrified for my safety. The local domestic violence group urged me to relocate for my safety. I cashed in a small premarital 401K that I had from years prior that he missed and moved to a large city where I could get lost easily. Starting over is hell. There was no one here to catch me. The DV group here consisted of a bunch of young interns who were very inadequate. Resources were not available to me. I had no children with me and I was not a senior citizen so I did not fit into any programs. When I asked for brochures or info, they were always out or did not have them. It was so frustrating. It is 2012, I am still lost, broke and ill. I suffer from fibromyalgia from years of hypervigilance. I’ve lost belief in myself and all confidence. How could a woman who was smart and successful at one time be duped by a man and destroyed. He was so smooth at his manipulation, he wiped me out financially and the painful thing is that so many friends, family and business associates believed him. I was the crazy one that he just could not help. I still mourn the loss of pets he killed, children that turned against me, friends and family I had to leave, my businesses and the valley where I grew up and loved as my home. Home, a word that once meant a safe, loving and secure place for me. I got lost in the cracks and pray that there is better support for other women that were in my position. To this day my abuser is still trying to find me and is even angrier than before because I got away. How do I heal and start over? I am in counseling and go to a recovery group called ARMS. I still battle anxiety every day. What a way to live. What is stage 6? What happens to women like me? Do we just die? Is there a place for me in this world where I can feel safe, pain free and be successful and loved again. The loneliness is overwhelming.

    • Nicky Jul 8, 2014, 4:26 am

      My heart goes out to Abbie and to every abused person also to mothers. Abbie keep positive, you have done the hardest part by leaving him. You may think he has won everyone over, but they can’t pretend they are someone else forever, live each day as it comes, think positive, don’t ever give up, doesn’t matter how little you have, you still have your life. Slowly you will make friends and each day will get just that little easier. As hard as it may all sound, look and think of all the simple pleasures in your life. My daughter and my grandkids have gone through hell (but gotten much worse) as the EVIL partner of my daughter (not the father to my grandkids) had also been sexually abusing my eldest grandaughter – grooming her for a couple of years.
      We just finished the trial (by jury) and verdict GUILTY. Waiting for his sentencing. My daughter doesn’t talk to me now. He had brainwashed her so much. I’m sure she still thinks I’m the evil one (I just don’t know what she thinks – she isn’t the same person). I try and help but we argue.

      I have decided to step back and just wait until she is ready to come to me. I also, like every other mother, is so stressed out. My husband has had a massive stroke, and doesn’t understand why our daughter doesn’t come over to see us. My grandchildren have not had any counselling (nor my daughter). This is what worries me the most, as they have witnessed and gone through hell. What amazes me the most — I had no idea so many people going through the same thing as we are. – Nicky

      • Clare Murphy PhD Jul 8, 2014, 8:32 am

        Nicky — Well said.

        • Nicky Jul 10, 2014, 3:08 pm

          Thankyou Clare – I wished I read these articles a couple of years ago – I would have understood so much more – Because it always puzzled me why my daughter stayed with this evil creature (I can’t call him a man – he makes my stomach churn at the mere thought of him) – when my daughter knew she had a loving supporting family and extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins) that supported and would have protected her – But now I do understand.
          Thankyou so much for helping me understand – I understand but I still cry silent tears for my daughter, my grandkids and many other people going through this hell – ❤❤❤

  • debb Feb 4, 2010, 4:48 am

    I have a huge worry with my daughter who is 28. She was in an abusive relationship with her fiancee for over 2 years. She finally left him and moved out for about 7 months now. Christmas she was driving back from family and met him and they have been seeing each other ever since. She says he has changed and he is proving to her he has…in the same breath she says she was the crazy obsessed one, again she is the problem. So to me and the remainder of the family he is still the manipulative abuser he always was. At this point we can’t even talk to her about their new found relationship, this is really causing distance between us and we are a VERY close family and her big sister is her best friend and they fight everytime they talk about them getting back together. So far she says she won’t move back in with him at least not for 3 months she says. This is driving my husband and I crazy as well as her sisters! Why would she go back to something that was so horrible. She was verbally abused daily and sometimes physically. He isn’t liked by anyone in the family. He was the typical bully when they were together the first time – only his friends – and very little of her family time. I got calls in the middle of the nights with her screaming and crying from him hitting her and breaking her cell phones, calling her names degrading her over and over again, just horrible! We are in amazement that she is allowing him even back into her life at all much less talking about getting back together. WE are asking Why and What are we to do as parents and sisters to help her and help us as her family. PLEASE SOS !!! A worried and loving Mommy!!!!

    • Clare Feb 4, 2010, 7:42 am

      This is a problem I hear about on a far too regular basis. It is like watching family members who join cults and become indoctrinated into the cult leader’s values and rules for living. Sometimes it becomes apparent the woman may believe she has no other options, she may feel so attached to her partner and so incredibly fearful of being alone, or doing life alone that she continually clings to what is good about being with a controlling man. I’m sorry there are no definitive answers to your question. You can pursue the suggestions in the post above and also go back to the post that discusses “Stage 2” and use some of the suggestions there including gently exploring what she enjoys about her relationship and how she is affected by what she does not enjoy. Always reassure her you are there for her. Part of his game, as you say, is to centre most social contact around his own friends – so I would suggest not giving up. If you back off he has won by succeeding in isolating her further. But at the same time I don’t mean pushing your daughter into actions she does not want to do – I mean letting her know you love her and are there for her, and gently keeping regular supportive contact. Clare